4 Tips for creating an internship program at your company

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9 mins, 20 secs read time

As the inaugural class of sales interns at Greenhouse this summer, we were given the rare and invaluable opportunity to experience the world inside a high-growth startup. Throughout the 12-week program, we produced cross-functional work, gained in depth exposure to the nature of technology sales, were mentored by extremely smart and experienced colleagues, and, to top it off, are walking away with lifelong friendships.

In fact, we were so impressed by our internship program that we were compelled to write this blog post to provide you with some tips on how to design an internship that will attract top talent to your company and result in a mutually beneficial experience for both you and your interns.

Read on to get our 4 core insights on how to make your internship program stand out from the rest:

1. Create a challenging – yet engaging – interview process

Make the job description interesting with an easy-apply application. For all job/intern candidates, if applying is not easy and user-friendly, great talent will be turned away. Additionally, it is difficult to find potential candidates with many “hard skills” especially as a college student applying for a summer internship. Many students have limited work experience and lack many of the technical skills necessary for specific jobs. A job post that is more “soft skill”-centric is more appealing and will pull in not only more candidates, but more personable candidates who adapt quickly and may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Distribute a take-home assignment.
This determines which candidates are truly interested while also giving them a taste of the work they would be doing. A take home assignment is also beneficial for both parties. While it helps companies evaluate whether or not the candidate is fit for the position, it is also a time for the candidate to assess if they will appreciate the work they will be doing. For us, the task we were assigned was interesting and challenging, which thus motivated us to do everything in our power to get the internship.

Treat the process equivalent to that of a full-time employee.
While the thought of being interviewed by seven different people at first intimidated us, it also showed us that Greenhouse was serious about their internship program. We would be going through the same vetting process any full-time hire would, and while it was a tough process, it demonstrated how integral a part we would play within the organization even as interns.

Make sure your recruiters sell your hiring brand.
If there is one common denominator as to a factor that led us to choose Greenhouse, it was our recruiting coordinator, Katie DiCioccio. Katie was prompt in her replies to our questions (and there were plenty of them!), helped push us through the recruiting process quickly to meet our decision deadlines for other companies, and did a great job of selling us on the company. She really acted like a spokesperson for the company, and represented Greenhouse’s authentic, inclusive, and collaborative culture and values.

Interview for culture fit.
Greenhouse as a company really puts a premium on culture fit when it comes to hiring somebody new, and their emphasis on this aspect of the interview process really shows. Not only did we become close friends within a few weeks, we think the entire culture of Greenhouse helped us to immediately feel comfortable and confident when coming into the company. Both of these factors resulted in more time collaborating to complete effective and meaningful work and less time feeling like we were awkward new hires.

2. Develop a defined and meaningful internship curriculum

Establish a member of the recruiting team as a partner with the hiring manager to create a stellar program. Katie, our recruiting coordinator, worked closely with our manager throughout the initial development of the intern program, the hiring process, and our overall time here as interns. Katie has been a point of contact since we first sent in our application and having that relationship with someone within the company from the get-go is what made our experience with Greenhouse so positive from the start. Ultimately, good communication between the recruiting team and the hiring manager creates a seamless transition from being hired to actually working at the company. It makes for a much smoother intern experience overall.

Give them the sameonboarding experience as everyone else.
All four of us are extremely grateful to have gotten the opportunity to go through the full three weeks of SDR training, just like a real SDR. Although some of the information was more than we needed to successfully perform our internship tasks, it really helped us to better connect with the SDRs, which was incredibly important for our success as interns. Without that training we think we would have sometimes struggled to understand what our jobs were and how we were adding value to the company.

Give them exposure to various divisions of the company.
The ability to gain exposure to other parts of the company is something we think really set this internship apart for us. While most of our work supported sales, we also were given the opportunity to work on projects with sales operations, recruiting, and marketing. As an intern you want to gain as much experience and have as much exposure as possible. You are not only figuring out what you DO want to do but also assessing what you DON’T want to do. Had we been interns at other companies we most likely would have been working with only one team the entire time we were there, and would have had very limited exposure to the other career paths that were available to us.

Develop daily deliverables and projects that are mutually impactful.
Internships are notorious for their drudgery. At Greenhouse, however, we were given projects and tasks that had the potential to truly make an impact on the entire organization, and THAT in itself was extremely motivating. For example, we had the opportunity to surface/create an account (part of our daily deliverables) that ended up signing a deal(!) and got to positively/directly contribute our ARR (revenue). Case in point: Give your interns meaningful work and they will give you a meaningful product.

3. Give interns autonomy...

To get work done on their own time. Give your interns a rough timeline, but allow them to learn time management by giving them the freedom to choose how much time they spend on each project. They might learn a few things about time management the hard way, but by the end of their internship they’ll have an unparalleled understanding of prioritizing their time and planning ahead.

To be creative.
While we were given general guidelines and deadlines for all of our projects, our managers encouraged us to be creative and develop content that we determined was purposeful. While this was not always an easy process, preaching creativity teaches interns how to fully comprehend what your company values as well as produces fresh and possibly lucrative insight for your company. For example, one of our group projects was to create a client vertical sheet for our SDR team, with “make it more visually appealing and better” as the only guidelines. We had to define what “better” meant and make it most useful for the SDRs. Our finished product fell within the broad guidelines of the project and brought value to the SDR team and management as an alternative perspective to the typical client vertical sheet.

4. Promote open and inclusive communication

Encourage them to share ideas and suggestions. Our manager set aside a specific time for us every Friday in what we called our “weekly roundtable” to discuss how everything was going. Sometimes interns can get lost in the jumble so making an effort to have weekly conversations gives everyone a chance to gain clarification, express their opinions, and have a fruitful discussion about their time at the company thus far. Establish this open atmosphere to help develop your interns’ own professional skills and the evolution of the internship program itself.

Ensure you make interns a part of your culture.
Include them in team activities and meetings. From day one, we felt 100% included at Greenhouse. Not only did other employees encourage us to sit on the bean bags or to take a beer out of the fridge during happy hour, they also set up lunches and coffees with us and were never too busy to help us out. As the summer goes on, make sure to include interns in departmental meetings and fun, team-building events. The information may not be totally relevant to them every time, but being able to see how everyone shares ideas and opinions within a group setting is an invaluable experience. (Just the fact that we have the opportunity to write this blog post and contribute in that sense means that our opinions and presence are valued!).

Don’t treat them like “interns.”
If you treat your interns like they are important, they will strive to live up to that assumption and put forth their very best work. One thing you can do is schedule LinkedIn/Resume Workshops. We had the opportunity to sit down with our recruiting team and discuss tips that would help us develop our resume/LinkedIn profile and also the best ways to include the skills we obtained from our internship.

Encourage employees to be accessible and share their experiences.
At first, we were overwhelmed by everyone going out of their way to introduce themselves and give an open invite for coffee or lunch. As we come to the end of our internship, however, we can say that we have had amazing conversations with people ranging from fellow SDRs to the Director of Employee Experience to the CEO. The opportunity to talk to people about other industries and job positions they have experience in has really helped us gain a better understanding of where we could see ourselves in the future.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, Greenhouse established an environment in which the four of us have been intrinsically motivated to effectively work together, add value to the organization, and do our best work possible. It is no surprise that our final thoughts align congruently with Greenhouse’s espoused philosophy:

  • We nurture brilliant, talented employees who like to bounce ideas off each other and help each other learn and grow, resulting in an atmosphere where collaboration is a driving force behind both personal and organizational triumphs.

  • We encourage our employees to not just go through the motions of “work” and having a “job,” but to instead strive to become valuable contributors and truly make an impact.

  • We empower our employees to co-create an environment where everyone can—and wants to—do the best work of their career. When everyone is at their strongest, Greenhouse is, too.

The fact that employees with titles from employee experience manager, to sales enablement specialist, to account executive, to VP of Sales, to the CEO himself were willing to share their advice and, at the same time, listen to ours demonstrates that Greenhouse doesn’t just say they value their people—they truly do. This is the type of internship program you should create—one that provides a meaningful and mutually beneficial experience for both parties.